In the heart of the Caribbean, carpeted with lush rainforests ringed by spectacular beaches, it’s easy to see why St. Kitts owes its earliest name to the native word for fertile land: Liamuiga. From a stunning chain of mountains to an underwater world teeming with marine life, tranquil St. Kitts and its island twin, Nevis, bear little outward sign of past revolts led by slaves desperate to break their chains.
Now a different kind of bondage finds fertile ground in the tropical jewel at America’s back door. False teachers lead those who would be Christians unwittingly into heresy. In St. Kitts, radiant with sunshine and natural wonders, the spiritual darkness is staggering. This island country is largely forgotten in modern missions’ efforts, already considered “reached” with the Gospel. But one missionary couple hasn’t forgotten.
Sean and Mandi Miller, with Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF), have labored through power outages and alongside monkeys, lizards and centipedes to commit themselves and their young family to leaving behind a sustainable, nationally led ministry in every country they serve.
Their goal coincides with the 80th anniversary of CEF, whose vision internationally is to plant thriving ministries in every nation of the world by 2017. Already, the organization’s efforts have borne extraordinary fruit in the broader Caribbean, where nationally led ministries have been established in 9 out of 11 nations previously unopened to the Gospel.
The Millers spent the past two years building up the church in St. Kitts and Nevis, “working themselves out of a job” by training and equipping locally led ministries to biblically and effectively carry on the work of the Gospel.
Reaching the lost can be especially difficult in the tiny Caribbean nation of St. Kitts, where the divide between the theological “haves and have-nots” is as cavernous as the divide between rich and poor. The island is rife with crime, gangs and a superficial Christianity that focuses more on outward appearances. Some Christian pastors resemble modern-day witch doctors, offering to heal ailments while browbeating the faithful for donations.
Sean is deeply troubled by the footholds of swindling, “fire and brimstone” local pastors and false brands of Christianity in a land hungry for truth. “There is a view taught by pastors in the Caribbean that your good works are building blocks for your mansion in heaven. More good works, more money given, the bigger your mansion,” he says.
“There are places in these countries that are terribly dark with spiritual oppression. You could feel the darkness when you would go in with the light of the Gospel to the children. Spiritual warfare is huge and ‘in your face’. Teachers would give misleading and confusing Bible lessons, with invitations that consisted of: ‘Anybody that wants to be a Christian, raise their hand!’ We saw pastors preaching sermons filled with the ‘prosperity gospel’ and rampant moralism. Something needed to be done.”
That “something” clicked for Sean in 2011, when he attended a conference held by The Gospel Coalition (TGC) and heard about their International Outreach (IO) projects for theological famine relief. He says, “I knew we had to partner.”
“In a ‘second-world’ island nation where there is no Christian bookstore filled with quality gospel-centered resources, this was a huge blessing,” Sean says. He noted that the biggest library he came across on the island belonged to a pastor with his doctorate and consisted of just two small bookcases.
“We gave these [Packing Hope resources] away strategically and freely to the pastors we partnered with and the volunteers we taught. We received great feedback. People cannot teach the Gospel accurately to children unless they themselves accurately know the Gospel. The book faithfully communicates the truth of God’s Word. These resources are desperately needed in the Caribbean. We are deeply grateful to those who give to theological famine relief projects.”
Training churches to teach children
Reaching out to children is exceptionally dear to Sean and Mandi. He has served as a summer missionary with CEF since age 13, finding its focus on evangelizing and discipling children in local churches a natural fit to his heart. The couple is spurred by a shared conviction that effective outreach to children will multiply the results of churches’ efforts in far greater ways than simply by focusing on adults.
“We believe investing in the next generation is near to God’s heart,” Sean says. What better way could we invest our lives? If you reach the children, you reach the city. If you reach the children, you reach the nation.”
One of CEF’s purposes is to get children and their families established in a Bible-believing church. A major part of the Millers’ ministry is in training churches to teach children, so the International Outreach resources contributed to their goals in St. Kitts.
Partnering with TGC-IO can be a strategic and integral link for missionaries like the Millers. They’re preparing to kick off the next four years serving in their new mission field in Turks and Caicos. And they plan to continue Packing Hope—a helpful part of working themselves out of a job again.